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07 February 2024

Spanish farmers stage second day of tractor protests over EU policies and prices

07 February 2024

Thousands of farmers in Spain have staged a second day of tractor protests across the country, mirroring similar demonstrations across Europe.

The protests, which have been launched to demand changes in European Union farming policies to combat production cost hikes and severe drought, led to several of the country’s main national highways being blocked.

Access to the eastern port of Castellon and the south-eastern Jerez airport were also temporarily cut off.

State news agency Efe said that 1,000 tractors were heading slowly towards Barcelona’s city centre, causing major traffic jams on roads into the north-eastern port capital of Spain’s Catalonia region.

The protests involved several thousand people on tractors and in other vehicles.

They have not been backed by Spain’s three main farming organisations, which have called for separate protests in the coming days.

Several media reports have linked many of the protests on Tuesday and Wednesday to conservative groups. So far there have been no serious incidents.

The demonstrations are expected to continue over the next few weeks, with a major protest due to take place in Madrid on February 21.

Speaking in Spain’s parliament on Wednesday, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez pledged to help farmers and take their case to Europe.

The Agriculture Ministry on Tuesday announced about 270 million euros (£230.2 million) in aid to 140,000 farmers to compensate for Spain’s severe drought and problems caused by Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Agriculture minister Luis Planas Puchades met with farmers’ unions on Friday, but failed to persuade them to halt the protests.

There have been other protests in countries such as France, Poland and Greece in recent days.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, has already made concessions to farmers over the last few weeks on environmental and aid rules, and this week decided to shelve plans to halve the use of pesticides and other dangerous products.

We have seen from the farmers protesting on the streets of Europe that many of them feel trapped, that their needs are not being met. So, we must act

Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib of Belgium, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said on Wednesday that the rules governing farming “need to be reassessed in the light of current realities”.

European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic said that “resource scarcity, price shocks and an increasingly competitive global market is having a huge impact on the farming sector and rural communities”.

“We have seen from the farmers protesting on the streets of Europe that many of them feel trapped, that their needs are not being met. So, we must act,” he added.

However, inaction would probably please many of the protesting farmers as it might delay current EU plans that call for costly bureaucratic changes and the approval of international free trade deals that would bring cheap farm produce on to European markets.

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